Large corporations throughout America have redirected their marketing efforts from customer retention to new customer development.
As physicians, we often concentrate too much on marketing outside the office.
As a result, we lose focus of our most powerful marketing opportunity: your patient's total experience in your office.
We will discuss ten ideas for internal marketing.
1. Simple Pearls for Internal Marketing
When we consider marketing strategies for a medical practice, we often distinguish between internal and external means.
External marketing involves promotion of the physician's scientific accomplishments and advertisements that are usually either print (newspaper, flyers, etc.) or electronic (radio, television, web, etc.) in nature.
These are disseminated to the community at large.
Internal marketing involves those processes that promote your practice through behavioral activities within the office.
When the current managed care environment evolved, most practitioners recognized that the most effective means of marketing shifted from external to internal.
Patients were no longer drawn to a particular office because of visual advertisements, but rather other attributes, most of which are driven by Primary Care Physicians.
A great deal of goodwill may be acquired through meticulous attention to these factors.
Ten examples of effective internal marketing include:
1. Strengthening and exercising personal charisma (communication skills).
2. Professional and social interaction with Primary Care Physicians.
3. Timely follow up phone calls to patients.
4. Timely reports to Primary Care Physicians.
5. Written literature explaining the patient's diagnosis.
6. A practice brochure/ business cards detailing your expertise and conditions treated.
7. Maintaining availability.
8. A recorded message for callers "on hold".
9. Maintaining a bright, cheerful attractive setting.
10. And lastly, never feel intimidated to ask for referrals from very satisfied patients!
Internal marketing is a strong practice enhancement tool. It delivers a far more powerful punch than external marketing in our quest for highly motivated loyal patients.
Its cost-to-benefit ratio is one that simply cannot be beat.
2. Bring Holiday Wishes to Your Patients
Consider sending greeting cards to your patients (printed or electronic), especially to long-time patients.
Show them that you remembered them in their personal name (birthday, anniversary etc) or for the holiday season (Christmas, Easter etc).
As all of us, patients love the remembrance, and you might be amazed to hear that sometimes your card was the only card that they had received!
Postage is certainly a much greater consideration these days, but perhaps you could make up the difference by printing your own message on paper you have purchased in bulk.
Another, more economical, thought is to send personalized e-cards to patients over the Internet.
A small remembrance on a special occasion will assure that you are also remembered!
3. Recalling Your Patients
Isn't it nice to get a phone call from a friend who just wants to catch up with you and see how you are doing?
It will be no surprise to discover that this can work with your patients as well.
These calls can quickly become the cornerstone of a successful internal marketing effort.
Your practice has a treasure trove of former patients who are satisfied with the care that they received in your office.
Yet through careful inspection of your files, it is obvious that many patients have been discharged with good results but have received no further contact.
The further back you go in your files, the larger this group will become.
Why not pull those records and call the patients? You do not need a particular reason to do so.
You are just calling to say, "How are you?" What you can expect is that the patient will be surprised if not shocked that their physician's office is calling.
This is perfectly normal. Continue the conversation for a minute or two. Let them know you have not seen them in a while and it is a courtesy call.
Be certain that the patient will be very impressed. Train your staff to make these calls consistently, according to the year the patients were last seen.
You will see the return of many of these "woodwork" patients in a matter of weeks.
4. Educate Your Patients about YOU!
A brag book is another way to internally market your practice.
This book will not only display your scientific accolades and accomplishments, but it will show patients your community involvement.
In your office, you may exhibit on the walls of the waiting area e.g. newspaper articles and journals that celebrate your involvement and contributions to the society and science.
You may also consider volunteering activities, board of certifications and appointments in the community.
This gives the patient a feeling that she is with a specialist, and that patient will likely tell other potential patients about your scholarly attainments.
As a result, you may find common points of interest with your patients and be asked to participate in several lectures and health conferences.
Many patients can relate to your community involvement because they contribute or belong to the same organizations.
Moreover, this is a source of a new patient base and revenue. This newly generated clientele can also lead to many new patient referrals.
This "special book" can be an invaluable tool, especially for the new practitioner.
5. There's No Place Like Home
A home-like atmosphere is another aspect of internally marketing your practice.
The aura of your office from the front to back must exude this comfort level, while still maintaining a professional appearance.
Lighting is critical in your office. In addition to fluorescent lights, plenty of windows allow for natural light in. A well light room seems to have a favorable effect on a patient's mood.
It is very satisfying to have a patient comment on your bright and cheery treatment rooms. Also, consider decorating your treatment rooms with fresh flowers. Patients enjoy this gesture.
They feel you are compassionate and attentive to detail.
6. In-office Dispensing for Patient Building (where applicable)
Choose carefully the health products related to your practice. Consider starting with a few "anchor items" that typically move quickly off the shelves.
Display these products professionally in treatment rooms or at patient checkout. You may even consider signs in the office that focus on a product or two.
You should train your staff to dispense these items as well and give them free samples to use themselves.
The obvious financial benefits aside, dispensing is a timesaver that leads to increased overall patient satisfaction.
You and your staff will see that the patient receives the appropriate product and instructions for their condition.
This completely eliminates the guesswork on the part of the patient, thereby improving compliance.
7. God Gave Us Two Ears and One Mouth for a Reason
Listening is a necessary skill in helping us to hit a home run in patient satisfaction. That is why we have two ears and one mouth.
No one has a finer command of the language than the person who keeps their mouth shut, and no one ever got a stomachache from swallowing their words.
There are several benefits of listening for your practice:
listen to others and they will listen to you
you'll get to know more and with more accuracy
you gain other's trust
improved employee retention and satisfaction
less mistakes are made
Patients have come to expect that doctors and staff are poor listeners.
So focusing on listening skills throughout your office is an excellent opportunity to provide outrageous customer service.
Focus on listening with your ears, eyes and heart!
8. Do You See Enough Kids in Your Practice?
As busy as they are, pediatricians are busy and looking for ways to serve their patients more efficiently.
Their schedules are full of croup, fever, flu and yes.foot pathology.
The opportunity to cultivate pediatric referrals for your practice, is present in every pediatric practice nationwide.
First, target ailments that you are commonly seen by pediatricians and are within your scope.
Many pediatricians have neither the time nor the desire to treat these problems. The key is to market your skills effectively to the pediatrician.
Start your marketing effort with a visit to a local pediatric practice. Go just before lunch in order to catch doctors and nurses at a convenient time.
Before leaving, the in service is scheduled and leave your office business card. Tell the pediatrician that you will see their patients promptly and handle any emergencies immediately.
When the pediatrician calls you, see the patient right away. Keep in mind that when a child is sick or in pain, the parents become worried and apprehensive.
Prompt appointments help the patient, the parents, the referring doctor and ultimately your practice.
9. Reducing Waiting Time Through Efficiency
Consider "opening" your schedule just enough to see a few more patients a day. First and foremost, the doctor must start on time.
By "on time", I mean your assistant should bring back your first patient five to seven minutes before the first scheduled appointment time.
This gives the assistant time to help the patient back to the room, converse appropriately with them, and get the chart back to you.
This way, you are actually entering the treatment room at the appointed time.
Another time saving effort is for you to go through your charts before the day begins. Next to each patient's name, write down your treatment plan.
This may include x-rays, taping, injection, orthotic casting, surgical redressing, etc. This takes about one hour.
If you become familiar with your patient's charts and make the appropriate plans before the day begins, you will have an extra hour in which to see patients during the day.
10. Information is Powerful
In today's competitive managed care environment, one of the most critical factors in internal marketing is making a good (and prompt) impression on the primary care physicians (PCPs).
For new patients, complete your medical form and send it to their PCP, regardless of whether or not they were referred. You simply want their PCP to know that you are treating them.
It serves not only to complete that patient's chart in their primary doctor's office, but through repetition it puts your name in the PCP's head for future referral.
Keeping the PCP apprised of treatment benefits you, the PCP and the patient.
These pearls, though seemingly simply, can have a tremendous impact on the success of any practice, new or established.
Consider working these thoughts into the framework of your office, and watch your patient base (and your profit margins) grow exponentially!
(Source: American Academy of Podiatric Practice Medicine)
Business Development Consultant